Notes: Igawa suffers rocky debut
Sardinha making name for himself; Rivera faces first hitters
TAMPA, Fla. -- Kei Igawa's Grapefruit League debut was a rocky one. The Japanese left-hander threw 40 pitches on Monday and was lifted after facing one batter in the second inning.
Igawa showed good strikeout ability, fanning all three batters he retired in his exhibition start against the Tigers, but he struggled with his command and issued three walks. He left the game after surrendering a leadoff single to Sean Casey opening the second inning.
"The result was not good, but it was something I can learn from and move forward," Igawa said through interpreter Yumi Watanbe.
Igawa, 27, said his performance Monday was about on par with where he usually is during preseason workouts in Japan, with his pitches sailing too high in the strike zone. Igawa said it may take him about four Spring Training games to get comfortable, with those efforts spanning more innings.
Catcher Jorge Posada said that Igawa appeared like he was trying to do too much on the mound, overstriding and placing his body ahead of his arm, but he noted signs of a formidable Major League pitcher.
"I'm going to take the good, obviously, and move on," Posada said. "He threw some great sliders and a good, live fastball. He spotted the ball well when he was ahead in the count. The negative stuff, you just throw away."
In their first exhibition appearance together, communication was an issue between Igawa and Posada. The Yankees catcher is fluent in English and Spanish, but speaks no Japanese; Igawa's grasp of the English language is in the basic stages.
Thus, when Igawa was struggling early in his outing, issuing a leadoff single to Ivan Rodriguez and loading the bases with walks to Placido Polanco and Gary Sheffield, there was very little Posada could say to console the hurler.
Posada tried to gesture to Igawa that he should keep his elbow up and stay back, but he wasn't sure if the message got through. Igawa said that he understood some of Posada's "easy words."
"[You] just tell him in English," Posada said. "If he understands, good. If not, it's going to be tough."
The Hawaiian Hammer: The Yankees improved to 5-0 this spring when outfielder Bronson Sardinha slammed a walk-off two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning on Monday, victimizing Detroit's Felix Heredia.
Sardinha, 23, played all nine innings in the Yankees' 6-5 victory, manning right field as Melky Cabrera enjoyed his first off-day of the spring. A Hawaii native, Sardinha split last season between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Columbus, and hopes his heroics will plant a seed in the big club's mind for the future.
"I'm just trying to take advantage of every opportunity I get to play, every time I go in," Sardinha said. "If not for now, I can show something for later on in the season if there's injuries so they have a feeling for what I can do."
Sardinha credited Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long for shortening his swing during the outfielder's 52-game stint at Triple-A last season, where Sardinha batted .286 with six home runs and 27 RBIs. The changes have not gone unnoticed by Yankees manager Joe Torre.
"He's got a legit swing," Torre said. "He's got an idea when he goes up there. He has a real good swing for a left-handed hitter."
Enter Sandman: Mariano Rivera completed the first session of his sparing Spring Training workload on Monday, retiring all three batters he faced in the third inning. Rivera struck out Brent Clevlen and Brandon Inge before getting Sean Casey on a groundout.
"Everything was good," Rivera said. "Today felt real, real good."
Posada said that Rivera's trademark cutter was "sick," which roughly translates to midseason form. Rivera should log about 10 innings in the Grapefruit League this year, and while Torre said that he plans to use the closer about every other day, Rivera is essentially on his own schedule until April.
"He's our security blanket, no question," Torre said. "He's money in the bank, as far as I'm concerned."
Phillips upbeat: Yankees infielder Andy Phillips "sounds upbeat" about his mother's condition, Andy Pettitte said Monday. Pettitte has been keeping in touch with Phillips regularly since his mother was involved in a serious automobile accident involving a tractor-trailer truck last week in Alabama.
"I let him know we're all praying for him," Pettitte said. "He's been overwhelmed. He appreciates how guys are sending him text messages and everything. There's no question the kid is having a rough go."
Pettitte said that Phillips' mother has stabilized and that doctors are planning to attempt surgery on her pelvic bones Tuesday. Pettitte said that Phillips' mother has been taken off of a ventilator and is breathing regularly.
Phillips, 29, has been granted an indefinite leave of absence from camp while he tends to his mother, though he is keeping up with the ongoings. Pettitte said Phillips watched the lefty's two-inning start against the Devil Rays last week on MLB.com.
While Phillips is in competition with Rule 5 Draft pick Josh Phelps for a backup first base job, Torre said he would not hold Phillips' absence against him; if anything, Torre said Phillips has a bit of an edge over Phelps due to his 142 games of big-league experience with New York.
"It's tough to say you're putting yourself in jeopardy when he's sitting at his mom's bedside," Torre said.
'Tank' shut down: Non-roster catcher Todd Pratt has been shut down indefinitely with an inflamed left heel that has bothered him for about a week Torre said.
Pratt, 40, was sent for precautionary X-rays, with results expected on Tuesday. The veteran backstop is in competition with Wil Nieves to serve as Posada's backup.
This and that: Outfielder Bobby Abreu (strained right oblique) can begin taking dry swings with a broomstick and is considered on track in his recovery. "It's nice to know at least he's starting to twist and do some lateral stuff," Torre said. ... Hideki Matsui slugged his first home run of the spring on Monday, a two-run shot off Detroit's Justin Verlander. ... Right-hander Steven Jackson had a tough outing, allowing three runs and five hits in 1 2/3 innings. ... Right-hander Tyler Clippard worked two scoreless innings.
Quotable: "Maybe the knuckleball next week." -- Rivera, on the possibility of adding to his repertoire during Spring Training
Coming up: Chien-Ming Wang will take the mound for the Yankees on Tuesday when they travel to Chain of Lakes Park in Winter Haven, Fla., to take on the Indians at 1:05 p.m. ET. Cleveland will counter with right-hander Fausto Carmona.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.